How to recover from a race

With the marathon season in full swing, our Massage Therapist Emily Chong has lent her wisdom on how to recover from a running race:

How to recover from a race

On a chilly March weekend, my team and I travelled up to a remote town in Scotland, famous for mountain bike tracks, for the Mighty Deer Stalker Race. It is said to be one of the hardest off road races and I can see why – almost 2000ft of steep hill climbing with mostly mud, scree or tree roots underfoot, interlaced with frigid upstream river wading. Did I mention it was at night and pitch black for the entire course? After 16km of it, we were totally spent. Legs trashed, body aching, what to do to recover?

24 hrs post race

Eat. Within 30 minutes of finishing, replenish your glycogen store with carbohydrates (your legit excuse to demolish a mountain of chips). For the next 23 hours, also maximise your protein intake for muscle repair.

Drink. The rehydrating kind, with electrolyte to replace the minerals you sweated out. If you get muscle cramp post race, that’s a sign of electrolyte depletion.

Keep moving. Sitting down is your worst enemy, it shortens your hip flexors, which will pull on your already tight quads – a recipe for the onset of knee pain. Walk around, swing your legs, do light stretching, or better yet, have a gentle swim!

Sleep. Sleep is your best friend and sleeping before midnight ensures your body produces the right hormones at the right time for physical and mental repair.

3-7 days post race

Depending on how long your race is and how hard you raced it, it might take up to a week before your legs stop aching. Be patient, stay off high intensity exercise, but opt for light movement. This is a good time to get a sports massage, it’ll help with blood circulation, get rid of the tightness that you can’t get to, speeding up recovery. A hot bath with magnesium flake is also great for relaxing sore muscles.

7-21 days post race

Gradually reintroduce training back into your routine. Don’t ramp up by more than 10% a week (in terms of intensity or distance). Listen to your body – eat and rest when it tells you to!

Words and image by Emily Chong.

Sarah Lawson

Sarah had wanted to be a physiotherapist from the age of 15, and she realised her dream after qualifying in 1992. She went on to gain a postgraduate qualification in Sport Medicine in 1997, and later became the Outpatient and Sports Injury Manager at the Wellington Hospital. 

When she found herself spending more time on paperwork than patients (her clinic at the Wellington was owned by an American corporation), she went into private practice – first helping a small physio clinic get back on its feet, and then setting up Physio Remedies in 2005. 

Physio Remedies has come on a long way since its inception (which consisted of just Sarah on her own, in a converted broom cupboard at the Lansdowne Club): with top physios from around the country, state-of-the-art facilities, and relationships with renowned surgeons and sports organisations, it’s one of the most highly regarded physio practices in the country.